Rule Cards


Cards that provide instruction to players (usually in text).

Board games

This type of prop is a classic design solution most commonly known as Monopoly's Community Chest or Chance cards. Pick a card, read it, do what is says. This has unquestionable advantages for designers, especially flexibility. In text you can put everything both as for rules and as for world-building/story. You can get very detailed about your instruction, so it's easy to provide the intended level of balance.

On the other hand, as this mechanic can be included in rules of any game what-so-ever, it doesn't reinforce any title's identity, and is rather boring for experienced players. Another disadvantage is a considerable downtime from the encounter with a wall of text. Pick a card, read it, do what it says… stop, give the card to others to read, discuss the wording… ;)

The purest example of a rule card is an island of its own which ends its impact after it is executed. The emergent options open if you put your cards on a table and let them interact with each other. This change quite suddenly makes the design process a totally different matter of time and effort, but nevertheless we'll keep the name. If the musical "instruction" is provided not in a natural language but in a traditional system, we'll call these: notation cards.

Existing decks

In music games, rule cards are easy to encounter, and more generally, for makers of 'art in a game form', putting all the rules written in a deck is a frequent go-to method as it's straightforward and the boardgaming community is not the target audience.

  • Fluxfestkit Legacy — Here, Fluxus events are used as content for the card deck.
  • Stay in Character — this game uses a deck of instructions for use in the context of a more complex RPG-inspired game.
  • Trigger Cards — another take in the genre, this time from Auki Podcast.
  • Tonic — these cards are also directed to a single player, although many possible ways of usage are encouraged
  • Oblique Strategies — Brian Eno's more general constraints for overcoming creative blocks, possible to use in group activities too.

External games:

11 links here (see all).

Universal deck

32 cards attached to this page are supposed to be suitable for different ensembles in the context of free (and not so free anymore) improvisation. There are no conflicting rules so you should be able to pick randomly a few of them and still follow all.


A simple activity is to let all the players add a rule one by one (stacking). You can then use rule cards as a backup for people who don't have an idea (let them choose one of three random cards).

Other props:

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